Senior citizens are being targeted for random acts of violence in the U.S. more than ever before. According to U.S. News & World Report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the rate of nonfatal assaults against adults 60 and older increased about 53 percent between 2008 and 2016. Atop that, the nonfatal assault rate among older men increased by more than 75 percent between 2002 and 2016.1 But statistics are cold numbers and do not tell the stories of the individual victims.
On Nov. 18, 2022, Richard Bell was driving in downtown Boston to pick up a turkey for Thanksgiving. The 82-year-old grandfather suddenly found himself surrounded by 30 to 40 people on dirt bikes and ATVs. The pack of riders surrounded his vehicle and started kicking his car. The suspects threw a piece of pipe and a large rock through the vehicle’s windows. Desperate for help, the elderly man pleaded with the driver of another car to call 911. At that point, one of the ATV riders repeatedly punched Bell in the face, leaving him with serious injuries that required hospitalization.
“He wasn’t doing anything wrong. He [was] simply traveling somewhere and then he [got] attacked, and it’s heartbreaking for us to know that it’s not safe for our 82-year-old father to be out by himself,” Bell’s daughter stated during an interview. “[We’re] discouraged at humanity in general to know that someone — or more than someone — can get together and beat on a defenseless elderly man.”2
Photos of the injured man following the incident show deep bruises around his face and eyes. And yet Richard Bell is one of the lucky ones.
On the afternoon of Jan. 30, 2022, while Uken Cummings was picking up his blood pressure prescription at a local CVS in Orlando, two individuals shot and killed the 78-year-old, stole the keys to his Mercedes SUV and ran him over twice before they sped away.3
Increased violence against senior citizens is forcing many to consider acquiring and carrying a firearm to regain a sense of security and safety.
Deciding on a Gun
I recently spoke with two retired police officers at the Cape Gun Works in Hyannis, Massachusetts: Jim Kelly, a retired police officer who spent 15 years with the Boston Police Department; and Glenn Wilcox, who served as an officer and instructor on the Orleans, Massachusetts, Police Department for 32 years. These former officers are now firearms instructors working to meet the demands of the many senior citizens who are seeking firearms training.
“In the last two years,” Wilcox said, “there has been a dramatic increase in seniors who say they have never owned a gun [seeking firearms instruction].”
Kelly said senior citizens should be open-minded when they’re looking to purchase their first firearms.
“Seniors should not have any preconceived notions about what the correct firearm or caliber is before they speak with a qualified instructor to custom-fit the right firearms for them,” he indicated.
This might be a revolver or semi-automatic. Or it could be a .22, 9mm or some other caliber.
Further, he says, the gun should be a comfortable fit.
“It should be light,” Kelly continued, “and small enough so the gun fits the hand and can be operated efficiently in terms of loading and chambering.”
A concealed carry gun should not be too heavy or bulky or a person will not carry it safely and with confidence all year long. For instance, someone who selects a large-frame handgun might leave his or her firearm at home because he or she does not want to wear the heavy clothing necessary to conceal it during colder months. And a gun at home in a safe doesn’t do the individual any good if he or she is attacked while out and about.
James Wise is a police officer in Needham, Massachusetts, and part owner of Tactical Dynamics Firearms Training located in Foxboro, Massachusetts. Wise served in the U.S. Army and trained Iraqi police officers in the proper use of firearms. Since he left the Army, Wise has trained thousands of students on how to operate a gun.
His oldest student was a 90-year-old man, but most of the senior citizens who come to him for training are between 70 and 80 years old. While they may have more free time to train, their sight, hearing and strength are noticeably diminished.
For a student with vision issues, Wise recommends using a red-dot sight mounted on a pistol. This type of sight uses an illuminated red dot to help the shooter aim the firearm accurately. When the shooter sees the dot on the target, he or she knows his or her aim is true. This can be beneficial to any shooter, but especially a senior.
For someone suffering from hearing issues, electronic ear protection is the best bet. Unlike passive earplugs or earmuffs that simply block dangerous noise by using a physical barrier, electronic ear protection amplifies ambient noises but shields the user from dangerous noise levels.4 Peltor’s Sport Tactical 500 Hearing Protector and numerous electronic muffs offered by Walker’s are solid choices. They allow a user to adjust the sound and protect him or her from further hearing damage. SureFire’s EarPro designs are also options for those who prefer earplugs over earmuffs.
When it comes to diminished hand or arm strength from arthritis, other pain or inflammation, Bill Dalpe, an instructor at Patriot Firearms School & Defense LLC in Rehoboth, Massachusetts, says that a gun owner must consider these limitations when selecting a self-defense firearm. This includes how a user can manage a gun’s weight, recoil, caliber, grip, trigger, manner of reload and more.5
A revolver might (or might not) be a better choice for an older shooter, but if it’s a good fit, a speedloader can make reloading far faster and easier. If you opt for a semi-auto, a Maglula magazine loader is a must. For grip, the Brass Stacker, ArachniGRIP and other devices can help with slide manipulation. Smith & Wesson’s EZ series of pistols and Taurus’ TX22 are good semi-auto options for someone with reduced hand-strength.6 Again, you need to consult an experienced trainer before purchasing a gun.
Dalpe advises senior citizens to “work with what your body allows.” Know your abilities and limitations. And be realistic with yourself. You aren’t as spry and flexible as you were 20 or 30 years ago. No one is. It’s part of life. Adapt your method and carry and training based on your physical limitations.
This Isn’t ‘One and Done’
Every gun owner must routinely train to sharpen his or her skills. Senior citizens need to start by locating a qualified instructor who can adapt to their needs.
Dalpe stresses to his students that training doesn’t end after completing one lesson.
“One lesson does not mean you are prepared to be in a situation where you may need to use your gun,” he stated.
Unfortunately, many gun owners believe the skills they learn in a class are enough to last a lifetime. But skills are perishable, and they must be perfected through practice. In fact, all of the instructors interviewed were adamant about the need for constant training to refine the skills a person develops at the range. Only then will an individual be able to stay safe.
Mind Over Matter
With age comes reduced eyesight, loss of hearing, and diminished hand and arm strength. Fortunately, there are ways to overcome these physical limitations. Before his last fight in December 1981, famed boxer Muhammad Ali said, “Age is mind over matter — as long as you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”
The increase in violence against senior citizens is forcing many to consider a firearm for self-defense, but first-time gun owners must buy a gun that fits their needs and seek training from a respected trainer. We must all work within our limitations, but whether you’re 30 or 90 years old, you can learn to protect yourself with the right firearm and regular training.
(1) Gaby Galvin, “Violence Against Older Americans on the Rise,” U.S. News & World Report, April 4, 2019, USNews.com/news/health-news/articles/2019-04-04/violence-agains-tolder-americans-on-the-rise-cdc-says.
(2) “Witnesses sought after elderly man attacked by pack of Boston ATV, motorcycle riders,” WCVB, Nov. 24, 2021, WCVB.com/article/boston-massachusetts-elderly-man-attacked-by-pack-boston-atv-motorcycle-riders/38337334#.
(3) Holly Bristow, “Detectives detail timeline of 78-year-old Orlando man’s murder,” Fox 35 Orlando, Feb. 3, 2022, Fox35Orlando.com/news/boyfriend-girlfriend-arrested-in-the-murder-carjacking-of-78-yearold-man.
(4) Eugene Nielsen, “How to Choose Ear Protection for Shooting,” USCCA Firearms & Self-Defense Blog, Aug. 15, 2022, USConcealedCarry.com/blog/how-to-choose-ear-protection-for-shooting/.
(5) Bruce N. Eimer, “Finding an Arthritis-Friendly Concealed Carry Handgun,” USCCA Firearms & Self-Defense Blog, Feb. 1, 2011, USConcealedCarry.com/blog/arthritis-friendly-defensive-handgun/.
(6) Rick Sapp, “Concealed Carry While Aging,” USCCA Firearms & Self-Defense Blog, Oct. 6, 2019, USConcealedCarry.com/blog/concealed-carry-while-aging/; Ed Combs, “Ask Ed: Concealed Carry FAQs — January 2021,” USCCA Firearms & Self-Defense Blog, Jan. 25, 2021, USConcealedCarry.com/blog/ask-ed-concealed-carry-faqs-january-2021/.
Brass Stacker: TGREnterprises.com
Smith & Wesson: Smith-Wesson.com
Talon Grips: TalonGunGrips.com